Outriders made no profit and may never

Outriders was released in April 2021, heralded by developer People Can Fly and publisher Square Enix as the future of the marauder shooter – and as we find it a bit of an inconsistent experience, the first signs were of a positive commercial response. Square Enix boasted 3.5 million players in the month after launch, calling it “the company’s next major franchise.

Then things got a little quiet. In August, developer People Can Fly was complaining about being left in the dark by Square Enix about how the game was going. And now, the lid has come off and it looks: not very well.

A new financial report from the studio addresses Outriders and says that while they were entitled to royalty payments if the game sold well enough, “The Group did not receive royalties from the publisher in the period up to December 31, 2021, which means that as of the reporting date, net income from the sale of Outriders was insufficient to recover the costs and expenses incurred by the publisher to develop, distribute and promote the title. This was confirmed by the fourth quarter 2021 royalty statement received by the publisher’s Group.”

Suddenly, this doesn’t sound like Square Enix’s next big franchise. It should be borne in mind that initial player numbers have also been boosted by the game being available on Xbox Game Pass since launch: so it seems like a lot of people just tried Outriders and moved on quickly.

People May Fly remains committed to delivering at least one more DLC for Outriders, which the document says is called Outriders Worldslayer and will be released in 2022. There is no guarantee that the net income from the sale of Outriders in future periods will be sufficient for the publisher recovers the costs incurred and pays royalties to the Group.”

If nothing else, this goes to show just how misleading the starting player count and publisher braggadocio can be – particularly when talking about a live service game, which aims to keep players returning for the long haul. It also raises a question about how good Xbox Game Pass’s decision was for a third-party game that sold at full price elsewhere. Outriders was fun enough, but it never felt like a serious contender against something like Destiny 2.

People May Fly, however, seems committed to a similar path with its next game. This is called Project Gemini and referenced in the financial report as “a Triple-A game that is being developed in partnership with publisher Square Enix Limited. Its scale is comparable to that of Outriders. The Group expects the game to be completed by the end of 2024.”

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